Runaway Highway

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Chapter 1 - The First Race

Johanna Myers' POV

On Race Day, a day which was almost considered a holiday in Westray Valley, I always wondered why the police never showed up to stop the commotion. If there was at least one competent officer (which I doubted since so many crimes just got ignored in that town) surely they would put an end to those races. Yes, the race was always in a different location every time, but you didn’t need to be a genius to figure out where it would be: there were only so many places in a small town where a race could be held. Besides, with almost all the troublemakers and law-breakers concentrated in the same area at the same exact time, it was the perfect occasion for a massive police intervention. Deep down, everyone knew the police didn’t have the manpower or the weaponry to arrest everyone involved and live to tell the tale, but this time, contrary to what everyone thought, things would end differently.

It was around one in the morning when I arrived at the new location, an old road which no one ever used due to it’s many hazards. That road was said to be dangerous even in broad daylight due to the deep pine forest that engulfed it and the unpredictable rockfall that could drag a car down the precipice. It was the perfect location for an illegal race, both for the lack of civilians using the road and for the added adrenaline of facing extreme dangers.

I got there just in time. With the rain pouring so hard on that November night it meant that the ground would be extra slippery, so that mean that many cars would need repairs during the race. I worked for no one in particular, I was there for the highest bidder. However, I could feel that my presence was imperative for the drivers. I belonged to no faction, they knew I would save their cars no matter what happened to them during the race.

Even dressed completely in black, with a hoodie over my head to protect myself from the rain and to conceal my face (were the police to magically make an appearance), everyone knew I had arrived.

I wasn’t the biggest racing fan and all the crime associated with it, but the event ensured that my pockets were filled, so filled that I didn’t need to worry about a thing for months. It was the biggest payment I could ever dream of receiving during the year, and God knew I needed it desperately.

I stood under a high pine tree next to the crowd that had gathered to watch the race and cheer for their favourite driver. The group was composed of drunk teenagers and young adults. Some of them I recognised immediately because they were avid fans, others were newcomers who had heard about the races for years but never had the guts to actually show up. One thing was certain, they were all there for the rush of breaking the law, to feel the adrenaline of witnessing the most extreme racing the town had to offer. However, the guys you really needed to stay away from were hiding in the shadows of the thick vegetation, not to be seen by anyone. They were there to “ensure peace” and protect the drivers. If one took the time to really search the place, you could suddenly see the barrel of a gun shinning from within the forest. What scared me the most about them was their ability to remember any face who had the tendency to cause trouble and had no problem in telling their patrons about the troublemaker. My biggest fear was to have my face engraved in their minds.

The cars were lined up by the starting line which had been sprayed on the gravel with bright red fluorescent paint. The line now trickled down the tracks like blood due to the heavy rain that dissolved it. The soaking-wet tires of the cars shone bright with the lights of the makeshift spotlights hitting its surface. I could see that all the tires had been replaced and were all brand new. Idiots, they didn’t know that new tires meant less friction, which made it harder for the drivers to make sharp turns.

That was why I was there. They needed me to repair their cars. After all, not only was months of work at stake due to the countless hours the drivers put into perfecting their cars, but also their pride. And of course, the money.

“All right, settle down everybody!” shouted on the caucasian skinheads, stepping into the pouring rain, the spotlights allowing me to notice every single raindrop that fell from the dark sky above, “Let’s get the party started! Drivers, get your asses into your cars. Now, you know the drill. Push anyone off the tracks, disqualified. If you try any funny business to fuck another racer, disqualified. Driving drunk or stoned... Well, that’s your fucking business!”

The crowd laughed and cheered, but I felt a shiver run through my body. It wasn’t uncommon for racers to be so out of it that they ended up seriously hurt, or worse, dead.

“You know the prize,” continued the skinhead, “Fifty thousand dollars so that you can continue to invest in your shitty cars until the day you die on these tracks. Kapish? Oh, and please, everyone in the crowd, if you want to bet on a car this is the time to do it.”

The speaker turned to the racers who were now standing by their car “Now bitches, get your asses inside your vehicles and let’s race.”

The skinhead ran to under the tree and a girl in an extremely short skirt, heels, and red lipstick took his place in the middle of the cars. She carried a silver shotgun and a red flag.

The racers turned the engines on. The cars roared, the exhaust pipes growling like beasts who had been woken up. The smell of gasoline and smoke engulfed the crowd, bringing a smile to my lips.

Giving one last glance at the drivers before the race started, I knew all five of them. I had to give it up for their driving skills. Though they were all extremely gifted behind the steering wheel, they didn’t know jack shit about mechanics. They all went by their race name, given to them by their reputation. Gazelle, Adamant, Stark, Lickety, and Wroth. I had my eyes on Lickety, the winner of the last two races. I was sure that if he had any trouble during the race I would be the one he would seek. We wanted to keep his reputation as the fastest, the bravest, the most skilled driver. Before stepping inside his car, chewing gum in his mouth and a cocky smile etched on his face, he smirked at me. I turned my face away from him, his cockiness making me sick.

The girl raised the gun and the flag, drawing everyone’s attention to her. Everyone started chanting the countdown with her, the adrenaline building fast.

“On your marks,” the girl shouted over the noise of the engines “Get set...”

She fired the gun upwards, the cars flying past her and into the pitch dark road, the roar of the cars dragging the crowd and making the wild teenagers sprint after them in the pouring rain.

That was when the police sirens echoed down the road.

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